|About this Recording
8.554516 - Oh Flanders Free: Music of the Flemish Renaissance
The dominant position of Franco-Flemish composers in the musical world of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is testimony not only to the cultural climate of Northern France and the Low Countries in that period but also to the example set by Burgundy. Established as a dukedom under Philip the Bold in 1363, the territory grew through inheritance and dynastic marriages to include the most prosperous region of Europe, Flanders and Brabant, while the marriage in 1477 of the Burgundian heiress Marie, after the death of her father Charles the Bold, to Maximilian of Austria saw Burgundy revert to France and the Low Countries to the Habsburgs, The court of Burgundy in its heyday set an example of magnificence and luxury to the other courts of Europe, attracting artists of the highest distinction, In England Henry VII, victorious in the War of the Roses, was among those rulers who sought to emulate Burgundy, importing artists of all kinds from the Low Countries, a tradition that continued under his successor, while the states of Northern Italy fell under a similar influence.
The present album provides a brief conspectus of Franco-Flemish musical influence in the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth. It opens with the familiar Introit from the Gregorian Requiem. This is followed by two excerpts from the Songbook of Zeghere van Male, copied for the Bruges merchant of that name in 1542, an anonymous instrumental Preludium and a polyphonic setting of the brief text for the living and the dead, Laus Deo.
Thomas Fabri was a pupil in Paris of the French composer Jean de Noyers, otherwise known as Johannes Tapissier, who had served as a chamber musician to Philip the Bold of Burgundy. In 1412 Fabri was appointed choirmaster at the Cathedral of St Donatian in Bruges, a city then at the height of its cosmopolitan prosperity. His Ach Vlaendere vrie (‘Oh Flanders free’) is one of his two surviving three-voice secular songs.
A native of the northern French town of Busne, from which he takes his name, Antoine Busnois may have been a pupil of Ockeghem in Paris. He was subsequently in the service of Charles the Bold of Burgundy and, after the latter's death in 1477, of the Duke's daughter, Marie of Burgundy, until her death in Bruges five years later. Busnois died in 1492 in the same city, where he was employed as master of choristers at the church of St Sauveur. His four-voice Alleluya is largely harmonic in conception.
There follows an instrumental piece attributed to the Italian Jewish composer Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro, a dancing-master whose writing on the art is of considerable importance and enjoyed wide contemporary popularity for its practical advice. The dance Falla con misuras has the alternative title Bassa castiglia. It is a basse-danse, a court dance that, with its succeeding mesures, reached its height of fashion at the Burgundian court.
Contemporaries coupled the name of Johannes Ockeghem with that of his supposed pupil Busnois. Probably a native of Flanders, he served at Notre Dame in Antwerp and was later employed at the court of Charles I, Duke of Bourbon, the husband of Agnes of Burgundy, sister of Philip the Good. From the early 1450s he was in the service of the French court under Charles VII and his successor, Louis XI, rewarded him with a number of benefices. The tribute paid to him on a visit to Bruges in 1484 suggests a possible earlier connection with the city and with the composer in the service of the Dukes of Burgundy, Gilles de Binche dit Binchois, to whom he expressed his debt. His chanson Ma maistresse was regarded by his contemporaries as a model of its kind, serving as the basis of a Mass setting by the composer himself and as a familiar source for quotation by others. Ockeghem's chanson D'ung aultre amer (‘To love another’) was also widely known, serving as a basis for a number of compositions by other composers.
The prosperous city of Florence was a major cultural centre in Italy, particularly under the rule and patronage of the Medici family, who became absolute rulers of the city and its surrounding region in 1532. The musicians employed in Florence included distinguished practitioners from Northern Europe, but Mattio Rampollini, represented here by a light-hearted song in praise of Bacchus, god of wine, was a native of the city, master of choristers at the cathedral and in the service of the Medici family.
The greatest composer of his day, Josquin des Prez is thought to have been a native of Picardy. The first certain surviving reference to his career finds him employed as a singer at Milan Cathedral and later in the service of the ruling Sforza family, in association with which he became also a singer in the papal choir. For a time at the French court, he returned to Italy, to Ferrara. There he was finally succeeded by Obrecht, when he left in 1503 to return to Northern France, where he died in 1521. El grillo (‘The Cricket’), a frottola, puns on the name of the singer Carlo Grillo, employed by Galeazzo Maria Sforza, whose musical establishment of forty singers included some score of French or Flemish musicians. It suggests, in its setting, the song of the cricket.
It seems possible that Josquin spent some time in Florence in the years 1487 and 1488, when his name is missing from the list of singers in the papal chapel. Heinrich Isaac, a native of Flanders, spent ten years or more in Florence under Lorenzo the Magnificent, until the latter's death in 1492. In 1497 he became court composer to the Emperor Maximilian I, in Vienna, enjoying a certain freedom of travel that took him back to Florence, where he had married, and to various cities of the Empire. He died in Florence in 1517. Isaac had been briefly in Innsbruck on his first journey south to Italy in 1484 and he spent some time there in 1500 and 1501, when in the service of the imperial court. His well-known song Innsbruck, ich muss dick lassen is unusual in its harmonic chorale-like setting.
The manuscript from which the anonymous Sergonta Bergonta is taken was copied in 1502 by Lodovico Milanese for use either in Ferrara or Mantua. The language of the text is a mixture of Italian, French, Spanish and newly invented words.
Josquin's Mass known as La sol fa re mi is based, it has been suggested, on the solmization of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza's frequent postponement of payment to his musicians, with the words Lascia fare mi (Let me see to it). Whatever the accuracy of this attribution, the music itself is based on the sol-fa notes indicated, A – G – F – D – E, in transposition. The light-hearted Guillaume se va chaufer (Guillaume goes and warms himself) is attributed to Josquin through a misinterpretation of Heinrich Glarean's Dodecachordon of 1547, where it is included among the many musical examples given.
Marguerite of Austria, daughter of Marie of Burgundy and Maximilian I, was three years old when, after the death of her mother, she was betrothed to Charles, the Dauphin of France, the first of her three husbands, none of whom were to live long. Subsequently, as Regent of the Netherlands, she held court at Malines, where she continued to encourage music and the arts. Collections of chansons made for her include the anonymous Cueurs desolez (‘Sorrowful hearts’), suited to a court in mourning.
Two further settings of D'ung aultre amer (‘To love another’) include an instrumental version dated, from its manuscript source, to about 1430, followed by a further version, making use of the well-known melody of L'homme armé and attributed to the fifteenth-century composer Philippe Basiron, presumably a musician of French origin. Here the upper part uses the melody from Ockeghem's chanson, while L'homme armé appears in the tenor.
Henry VIII of England had strong musical interests, as a singer, player and composer himself and his court entertained a large number of musicians from the continent. His Pastime with good company seems to be based on a French chanson of the period, to which it bears some melodic resemblance.
Tielman Susato was either born in Westphalia at Soest, from which his name is derived, or in Antwerp into a family of similar origin. He served as a town musician in the latter city, before turning also to publishing and to dealing in musical instruments. His collection of popular dances was published in 1551. His Passe & Medio or passamezzo is a duple metre dance, followed by a triple metre Galliard.
Born at Verdelot in Seine et Marne in the 1470s, Philippe Verdelot made his career largely in Italy, working in Florence, in Rome and in Venice. He is of importance in the development of the Italian madrigal, of which he was an early master, as witnessed in his Ogn'hor per voi sospiro (‘Every hour I yearn for you’).
Much favoured by Marguerite of Austria, the Flemish composer Pierre de La Rue was probably born in Tournai and served in the Burgundian court musical establishment of Maximilian and then of the latter's eldest son, Philip the Fair, until the latter's death in Spain in 1506. In 1508 he returned to join the court of Marguerite in Malines, before retiring finally to Courtrai, where he died in 1518. His Mijn hert altijt heeft verlanghen (‘My heart is always desirous’) is included in the album of Marguerite of Austria. A four-part work, it is based on an earlier anonymous three-voice setting which he recomposed.
Close the window